Turkey vows to be in as operation on Mosul starts
Sevil Erkuş - ANKARA
AA photoTurkey has sent a delegation to Baghdad for talks in an effort to convince Iraq to reconsider its objection to the presence of Turkish troops in northern Iraq, as Turkey’s president vowed that Ankara will not be excluded from an operation launched to retake Mosul from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
“What do they say? Turkey shouldn’t enter Mosul. Why can’t we enter? We have a 350-kilometer border [with Iraq]. Others who have nothing to do with the region are entering it. We will not be responsible for the negative consequences that will emerge from any operation that doesn’t include Turkey. We will be involved both in the operation and at the [negotiating] table afterward. It is not possible for us to stay excluded,” Erdoğan said Oct. 17.
He also vowed that Turkish troops would remain at the Bashiqa camp near Mosul. “No one should expect us to leave Bashiqa,” Erdoğan said.
The delegation, headed by Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Ümit Yalçın, includes officials from various security institutions and held talks in Baghdad on Oct. 17, sources speaking on condition of anonymity told the Hürriyet Daily News.
The delegation will discuss the mandate and duration of the Turkish troops’ stay at the Bashiqa camp in Mosul province. A previous proposal by Ankara to make the Bashiqa camp an official part of the coalition against ISIL is also on the agenda, sources said.
In 2015, Ankara suggested that the United States should continue training in the camp under the mandate of coalition forces, including elements of the Iraqi army, but did not receive a positive response.
Turkey wants its troops to continue their duties in Bashiqa until the coalition forces entirely remove ISIL from Iraq.
Turkish troops to ‘keep defensive position in Bashiqa’
The sources stressed that the Turkish troops in Bashiqa were not combatant forces and would stay in the camp throughout the Mosul offensive. However, they will respond to artillery shooting in the event of an ISIL threat against the camp or the surrounding region.
200 kilometers of land retaken from ISIL on first day, says Barzani
Masoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq, told a press briefing on Oct. 17 after visiting a peshmerga post near Mosul that Iraqi Kurdish forces had retaken 200 square kilometers from ISIL on the first day of the massive operation to liberate Mosul.
Commenting on the row between Ankara and Baghdad over Turkish troops deployed in Bashiqa, Barzani said a consensus needed to be found between the two capitals, state-run Anadolu Agency reported.
US assures of Tel Afar operation
Meanwhile, Ankara has repeatedly voiced concern over any possible “revenge killings” against Sunni locals in Tel Afar if Shia militias take part in the upcoming offensive to retake the town. In talks with Turkey, the U.S. has reportedly given assurances that only the Iraqi army and police will be tasked in an offensive into Tel Afar after the Mosul operation.
Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and his U.S. counterpart, John Kerry, spoke by phone on Oct. 17 and discussed the Mosul offensive, the fight against ISIL in Syria and efforts to declare a cease-fire in the war-torn country.
Turkey has repeatedly warned that the operation in Mosul could unleash sectarian strife.
3,000 Nineveh fighters in offensive
Some 3,000 Iraqi forces trained by Turkey at the Bashiqa camp are taking part in the U.S.-led operation, Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş said Oct. 17.
“You know that Turkey built that camp [Bashiqa] on the demand of the Mosul governor. Many people were trained there from among nearly 4,000 local elements of Mosul. They are called the Nineveh Mujahideen. Now, 3,000 trained by Turkey are involved in the fight against ISIL,” Kurtulmuş said Oct. 17 after a cabinet meeting. Turkey will reassess the presence of its troops in northern Iraq whenever security necessities against ISIL end, he stated.